Interpretting the Book of Revelation

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blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Yesterday, when I came home from work, my wife and youngest son told me about a conversation they had with my son's friend who was over playing for the day. He enjoys reading the book of Revelation, and was all excited sharing with them all he'd been learning about what's going to happen in the future.

Rev 12:1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
Rev 12:2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.​
Mary was going to have a baby

Rev 12:4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.​
One third of the stars were going to be thrown down to the earth.

Rev 12:13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
Rev 12:15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.​
A dragon was going to be cast down to the earth and a serpent was going to poor out water out of his mouth...

I commend the little boy for reading the Bible on his own and for believing what he reads.

My wife and son asked if the stuff he was talking about was really in the Bible and if that was what was actually going to happen. I told them yes its in the book of Revelation, and if you take everything you read literally, it paints a pretty interesting picture, which was real exciting to my son's friend.

I recommended to my son that, instead of focusing on the book of revelation as his friend is, that it'd be good for him to focus on the gospels and epistles for now, and to just learn about who Jesus is.

Having said that, I know eventually the topic of the content of the book of Revelation will come up again. Have any of you ever attempted to explain to your children/family why everything in the book of Revelation isn't necessarily to be taken literally? How'd you go about it?
 

David_A_Reed

Puritan Board Freshman
The best and simplest approach is to take them into Revelation itself, and show them that it says it consists of "signs" or symbols.

You might show them first Isaiah 55:12 where "the trees of the field" are said to "clap their hands." Explain that this is poetic language designed to convey a time of happiness. It would be silly to think trees will actually grow hands and then clap those hands.

Rev. 1:1 says the whole Revelation was "signified" to John, or presented using "signs and symbols" as Barnes Notes explains it.

John was told to write down "what you see." (Rev. 1:11)

Concerning the section the children were discussing, you could then point out, "A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven." (Rev. 12:1) "Then another sign appeared in heaven." (Rev. 12:3) "And I saw another sign in heaven." (Rev. 15:1)

You could ask the children for examples of "signs" they are familiar with that warn of actual things that are coming. For example, a road sign that warns "road narrows" -- sometimes by a graphic illustration rather than words. Then explain that the sign is just a picture of something that lies ahead.

The children can be assured that Revelation is true, and that they should believe it, but that they must understand the difference between the "signs" Revelation uses and the realities that those signs picture.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I think its also worthy of note that apparently, in all that "literalism" of the young man (and many more people beside)--

did anyone bother to note that the whole passage is expressed in the past tense?

So, what rule is being used to read Rev 12 as essentially "future"? Inquiring minds want to know...


{p.s. the whole thing is basically describing past events, even from the standpoint of John, some of which have effects that John--and we ourselves--experience}
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Dave,
Thank-you for your advice.

Concerning the section the children were discussing, you could then point out, "A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven." (Rev. 12:1) "Then another sign appeared in heaven." (Rev. 12:3) "And I saw another sign in heaven." (Rev. 15:1)
In the KJV, the same Greek word is translated "wonder" in 12:1 and 12:3 and "sign" in 15:1. Any idea why they might have used different english words here.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
I think its also worthy of note that apparently, in all that "literalism" of the young man (and many more people beside)--

did anyone bother to note that the whole passage is expressed in the past tense?

So, what rule is being used to read Rev 12 as essentially "future"? Inquiring minds want to know...
hmmm...that's a good point! Thanks.
 
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